NEW YORK Verizon Wireless unveiled three new cell phones on Wednesday for the holiday season, including a high-end handset named Voyager that will compete with Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone.
The Voyager, made by LG Electronics (066570.KS), trumps the iPhone by offering faster wireless Web access. But in a nod to the Apple device, which is only available to AT&T Inc (T.N) subscribers, it has a large touch screen and full Web browser.
Verizon Wireless hopes the new phone will attract customers put off by the iPhone's lack of a traditional keypad -- the Voyager hinges open to reveal a small computer keypad and a second screen.
"We think it'll be the best phone ... this year. It will kill the iPhone," Verizon Wireless Chief Marketing Officer Mike Lanman said in an interview.
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said the Voyager may attract existing Verizon subscribers who do not want to switch service providers, but he doubted it would hurt iPhone sales.
"People who want a high-end media phone and want to stay with Verizon will certainly give that one a hard look. I don't know that it would pull anybody away from an iPhone," he said.
The battle for cell phone buyers' hearts this holiday shopping season is shaping up to be even fiercer than usual, as rivals to Apple and AT&T launch new challengers.
Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L), has not been first with the hippest phones, but said this line-up is its best yet.
"Typically a carrier brings one, maybe two exciting products to the market in a year. We're bringing four," Lanman said, referring to the three new models and its existing LG Chocolate phone.
Verizon also introduced Juke, an ultra-narrow phone that comes in three colors and is shaped like a chocolate bar. The phone, made by Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), is less than 1 inch wide.
It also unveiled another LG phone, the Venus, which comes in black and pink, and has a phone keypad that slides out from under a touch screen. As with Voyager, it vibrates when a user taps a menu option on the screen.
Verizon Wireless would not give exact pricing beyond saying each phone would target a different segment and range from under $100 to about $400. The iPhone costs $399.
Greengart at Current Analysis said the new Verizon range is a step forward for a company that has been trumped before by AT&T, which sold Motorola Inc's MOT.N Razr long before Verizon did.
"This is something Verizon had to do," Greengart said. "It's been a long time coming for them to get hotter devices."
Venus and Voyager both have 2-megapixel cameras, and high-speed wireless connections for fast music and video downloads, and a slot for 8 gigabytes of extra memory. The iPhone has 8 gigabytes of built-in storage.
Venus and Voyager will launch before the end of November
The cheapest phone in the range is the Juke, which is narrower than any U.S. phone so far and will go on sale on October 19, Lanman said.
The Juke slides open to reveal a tiny keypad and comes in dark blue, red and teal. It has dedicated keys for playing music but does not have a high-speed wireless link.
Verizon Wireless said it expects to attract more fashion-conscious young users to Juke than those who want to constantly e-mail or Web-surf on cell phones.